What is the difference between a drawloom and a normal loom? I get asked this qustion quite often and I will try to answer it here as simply as possible. This post is written for anybody just happening to ask this question, not for experts in the field, so please, damask veterans and loom nerds, don’t get irritated.
1. The Main Difference
A drawloom has pattern heddles, which make it possible to weave those fantastic damask patterns. The pattern heddles are located at a distance behind the usual heddles, as in the photo below.
In the middle of the long pattern heddles there is a small plastic part called a maillon. A maillon is a small rod with holes and each warp thread goes through its own separate hole. The number of warp threads per maillon depends on the binding used and how many threads there are per unit (a kind of pixel, the smallest pattern unit/block).
At the end of the long pattern heddles there are metal weights shaped as rods. In my looms, the rods weigh 60 grams each.
The warp is weighed down by the metal rods and forms a shallow V, instead of passing straight through in a horisontal line.
2. More differences
The heddles of the ground binding (the normal set of shafts) are long-eyed, meaning they have larger openings than usual.
There are heavy metal weights attached with cords to the jacks of the countermarch, which helps treading a shed. Because getting a nice shed big enough for waving can be a problem in a drawloom, many looms have an extension and are longer by a meter or half a meter than normal looms. And since the shed never is large, flat damask shuttles are used for weaving.
The pattern is made by pulling up pattern heddles. If single pattern heddles are pulled, the system is called a single unit drawloom or harnesk and is used for weaving pictures, symbols, or large, non-repetitive patterns.
In a shaft drawloom, whole pattern shafts are pulled up and the pattern will be repetitive like in this folk costume fabric. The handles are attached to cords which go over the loom and down to the pattern shafts. If a handle is pulled, the coresponding pattern shaft goes up.
Both types of loom have the same framework, yarn beam and cloth beam. Shafts with heddles, a beater and a reed, treadles and a countermarch or some other system for getting a shed.
My drawlooms are from Øxabäck in Sweden and are shaft drawlooms. There are other brands and other systems, but I refrain from writing about them, because I do not know them well enough.
In one of my next posts I will write about weaving on a shaft drawloom. Interested? Keep an eye on the next updates.